A man of his environment and for the environment, Shane Philip leads what many would call an idyllic existence on Canada’s left coast.
He’s a musician, which means he doesn’t really hold down a day job, he lives on temperate Quadra Island, nestled between Vancouver Island and the Mainland, so he doesn’t put up with harsh winters, and when he travels for work, he meets and mingles with contemporaries and fans alike.
Philip is also a world/roots/folk one man band, multi-instrumentalist and a favourite in the Valley. A purveyor of percussion, strummer of strings and deliverer of didgeridoo, most people would describe Philip as pretty laid back – an attitude befitting an islander.
But these days, even Philip admits he’s a little more laid back since the birth of his son. Not to worry, though, he’s not so laid back that he’s stepped back from his music – in fact, he’s just released a new album; Life. Love. Music. And the booming didge and percussive thunder is still there.
As part of his Life. Love. Music. tour, Philip plays Wild Bill’s in Banff, Jan. 17, then returns to Canmore’s Communitea Café, Friday, Feb. 4.
“Those are going to be a couple of good shows,” said Philip last week after hopping off a B.C. ferry on Quadra. “With Wild Bill’s sound system, it’s like driving a big truck around and at Communitea, it’s more intimate, the crowd will feel the sweat flying.”
Life. Love. Music. is a 12-track offering recorded at Victoria’s Joby Baker Studios – the same studio where Philip recorded Live at Baker Studios (2009). The album is Philip’s fourth, including In the Moment (2008) and Earthshake (2006).
LLM was recorded in an eight-day marathon session, with Baker himself sitting in on drums and bass. The songs are pretty much all new, written by the more laid back Philip. “Joby and I get along well and musically are on the same path,” he said.
The new songs are lighter, he said, and written in the year-and-a-half since his son was born. “They’re upbeat, about nature and human nature. Since my new baby, I’d say my songs are a little softer, less edgy, but positive and uplifting. They’re songs about new life, re-birth and changes.
“The songs are about seeing the bright side and people creating their own reality. There’s also my usual environmental crusade songs.”
On this tour, out to Saskatchewan and back to the coast, Philip will haul his complete Island-made arsenal of didgeridoos, drums and guitars, along with a sound guy, which takes some of the load off, performance-wise.
“I’m trying to tour less, but make the shows count for more,” said Philip. “I’m doing more all ages shows and playing bars less. I think it’s a natural progression for me. And the best crowds are in the west, so that’s the best tour for me.
“The sound in theatres can sound so much better and I think people associate my music with dancing, and that’s great, but at community centres, people can dance and it’s all ages. I love kids and that allows them to experience live music.”
As part of his moving away from the bar scene, Philip said he’d also like to get in on more of the festival scene. “Festivals, that’s the best,” he said. “And my music is pretty versatile, I have some reggae with a good vibe, but I wouldn’t call it roots/reggae, but it’s also world beat and rock. I think I can play at any of those festivals.”
A former Smithers, B.C. school teacher, Philip was already performing with guitar and drums when he heard a didgeridoo performance on Quadra. He bought one that night and quickly added it to his repertoire – he now builds his own didges out of Vancouver Island arbutus.
The didgeridoo, said Philip, affects people in different ways. At times melodic, while still being able to deliver a chest cavity thumping, Philip himself settles into an almost trancelike state when playing the Australian aboriginal instrument.